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The term Minimalism is more of a philosophy or ‘design for life’ rather than simply a style of interior design and architecture. The entire basis of minimalism is the reduction of the subject to its necessary elements, or as world-renowned architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, ‘Less is more’. It’s that pairing back to nothing more than you need that can have such a transformative and almost cathartic benefit.
The emergence of Minimalism is often described as a response to the stress and chaos of modern urban living. In Japan, for example, minimalist architecture became popular in the 1980s when its cities exploded in scale and population. Minimalism was considered a Zen-like antidote to the chaos that was born out of this rapid growth.
Minimalist living is said to have life-changing economical and emotional benefits. Many claim that freedom from clutter and unnecessary ‘stuff’ can lead to a happier, less stressed way of life. This not only improves our state of mind, but also the state of our relationships and general quality of life. Whether you believe this or not, there is definitely a sense of tranquility about a minimalist space that has a calming effect.
In the purest form, minimalists adapt their lives to enable themselves to not just survive, but thrive, on the bare essentials of life. Minimalist interiors are stark, white spaces filled with light rather than furniture and decorative objects. All traces of colour are reduced to tones of white, to create both light and shade. Furniture is restricted to the bare essentials, and simple in both form and texture.
Kitchens feature plain, angular units with large block colours or materials, often white, sometimes black. Cupboards typically have no handles, using press-to-open technology. All appliances are integrated, hidden, or removed completely. Walls and surfaces are again smooth and white to reduce the visual impact of the units and maintain the clean and simple look. The exception to this is the use of pale wood, which offers a subtle connection to the natural world. All visual clutter is removed.
Minimal kitchens have smart storage solutions to conceal utensils and foodstuffs. For cooking, the purest would opt for a small flat black convection hob for its visual simplicity - definitely no Aga ranges! Sinks are simple, round or square in form, and often hidden or integrated, with an under-mounted or inset version favoured over a standout feature sink.
The true minimalist would also avoid any form of pattern and potentially even any materials with texture. Think smooth marble worktops, glass, stainless steel and white porcelain. You won’t find soft furnishings in a true minimalist kitchen. Carpet, rugs, cushions, fur and curtains are all seen as unnecessary decoration.
It all relates back to the principle of having as few essential items as possible - but each of high quality and durability - and ditching our dependency on excess.
To experience minimal living why not visit Japan? While academics may claim that modern Minimalism was born in America, it is a natural offshoot of Zen Buddhism and the simplicity of traditional Japanese living. Start at the Zaborin hotel in Niseko. It combines the best of Japanese tradition, nature, cuisine and contemporary style, creating a refuge of serenity. For a stripped-back minimalist Japanese dining experience, try Yuyado Sakamoto – a small Japanese-style inn near the northern tip of Noto, outside the town of Suzu. Its loyal diners will tell you it’s well worth the trip.
We appreciate that extreme Minimalism isn’t for everyone, but we can all utilise some of these basic principles in our own homes to make our houses less cluttered and calmer spaces.
And remember, if you can’t do without it, you can always hide it!
Read our ‘Get the look’ journal post on Monochrome Minimalism for interior ideas and inspiration.
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